We move on to Part 2, and maybe we should have started with the bad first and ended with the good. Oh well. Houston’s offense was just about the only bright spot on the team. Today, we grade out the defense, and we will try to make it as positive as possible.
Grade: B-/ D
This group get two grades for obvious reasons. Houston’s defensive line was actually productive early in the season. Jerard Carter, Isaiah Chambers, and Payton Turner were giving Ed Oliver space to make plays and avoid double teams. All three, unfortunately, were lost for the season at some point during the year. Oliver himself also dealt with injuries. When all four were healthy, this was a good group. Without them, the youth didn’t stand a chance. Players like Logan Hall and Willie Smith III saw significant time towards the end of the year, with depth becoming an issue. The poor grade has more to do with inexperience than anything, but Houston’s line was dominated often in games.
Roman Brown and Austin Robinson had career years in 2018 in terms of tackles, but this group wasn’t very good. It didn’t help that the defensive line was depleted, and this group featured three new starters as well. If opposing offensive lineman got to the second level, it normally resulted in a big gain. A comination of poor play and a Houston offense that scored quickly contributed to the defense being on the field a ton. Poor angles and tackling were again an issue with this group, and that led to yet another bad defense.
If it weren’t for this group, opposing offenses would have scored a lot more. Because of the aforementioned issues in the front seven, safeties and cornerbacks made a ton of tackles. In fact, all four starters were in the top seven in tackles for the Cougars. However, they weren’t great in defending the pass. Houston was dead last in passing yards against. Losing safety Garrett Davis early in the season didn’t help, but his presence wouldn’t have made too much of a difference. Davis could be back next year if he’s granted another year of eligibility by the NCAA, and Deontay Anderson and Gleson Sprewell will return also.
Here’s the thing, Houston’s issues weren’t due to a lack of talent. There was plenty of it at nearly every position. A new defensive coordinator will come in, but will it be by Major Applewhite or a completely new coach? This is a unit that must improve if Houston wants to be an AAC contender, and this year’s performance wasn’t great. They cost the Cougars a conference championship, and that simply can’t happen again.